Siding with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), former Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) chided a faction of freshmen Democrats for making “foolish statements that caused political problems” for Democrats.
“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, foolishly, in my judgment, began her House career by helping orchestrate a sit-in to protest Nancy Pelosi’s position on climate change,” Frank told Observer during a phone interview on Wednesday. “Anyone who thinks Nancy Pelosi is the main enemy on climate change or other liberal issues, is not thinking straight. Two of them also, the members from the Midwest, Minnesota and Michigan, made very foolish statements that caused political problems for everybody.”
Tensions between the House Speaker and the four progressive lawmakers (which also include Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts) reached an inflection point last week after Pelosi told The New York Times that the freshmen sidelined themselves by voting against a bipartisan immigration bill. Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib have all responded forcefully to the comment on social media and in the press.
Among the concerns the four have with Pelosi’s leadership is her unwillingness to begin an impeachment proceeding into President Donald Trump. But Frank, who previously served as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee (of which Pressley, Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib are all members), thinks this tactic would be a disaster.
“It will fail in the Senate. That’s not a debatable issue,” lamented the former congressman. “The purpose of Congress is to do public policy. I think stressing the substantive issues, the unfairness of the tax cut, the tax on health care, particularly preexisting conditions, the failure to do infrastructure, those are much better issues.”
Frank has been particularly vocal about opposing an impeachment proceeding. On Tuesday evening, he spoke at an event held by the nonprofit group Common Ground Committee to warn against how such a process could further divide the United States.
“Other than impeachment, I agree with them on most substantive issues,” Frank told Observer of the four freshman representatives. “I think the difference is that some of them appear to think there is a much greater majority for those positions than there was. They act as if these are fairly popular positions and ignore the fact that we have to fight hard to get even some of this done. In particular, I think it’s wrong, when they say ‘These people don’t have the courage to do it.’ It does not take courage if you represent Tlaib’s district or Ocasio’s or Pressley’s. It takes no courage whatsoever to be with these very strong left positions. It’s not wrong, but it’s not courageous.”